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Learning To Accept Yourself As An Introvert

Learning To Accept Yourself As An Introvert

If you identify as a natural introvert like myself, you’ll understand the problems and obstacles we sometimes have to face. Whether it is pressure we put on ourselves or stigmas created due to remarks made by others, it can often feel as though we are expected to be different. As though being quieter than our extroverted counterparts is a bad thing. At times it can feel like, due to repetitive demands from others to be a little more outgoing, you are expected to start climbing on tables swinging a microphone around your head shouting all of your daily activities. Or that one might just be me.

Here, Louise Watson of Tiny Buddha explores her journey to accepting herself as the natural introvert that she is:

“What other people think of me is none of my business.” ~Wayne Dyer

“You’re too quiet.”

This comment and others like it have plagued me almost all my life. I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that I needed to come out of my shell, to be livelier, or to talk more. As a child and teenager, I allowed these remarks to hurt me deeply. I was already shy, but I became even more self-conscious as I was constantly aware of people waiting for me to speak. When I did, the response was often, “Wow! Louise said something!” This would make me just want to crawl back into my shell and hide. I became more and more reserved.

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The older I got, the angrier I became. Each time someone told me I was “too quiet,” I wondered what exactly they were hoping to achieve anyway. Did they imagine I had a magic button I could press that would turn me into Miss Showbiz? If only it were that simple, I thought. I felt I should be accepted as I was, but apparently that wasn’t going to happen. There was only one thing for it; I would have to become the extrovert the world wanted me to be, but how?

At 17, I thought I’d found the perfect solution: alcohol. When I was drunk, everyone seemed to like me. I was fun and outgoing; able to talk to anyone with no problems at all. However, it began to depress me that I needed a drink to do this or for anyone to like me.

Another strategy was to attach myself to a more outgoing friend. I did this at school, university, and later when I began to travel a lot in my twenties. Although I didn’t do it consciously, wherever I went I would make friends with someone much louder than me. Then I’d become their little sidekick, going everywhere with them, trying to fit in with all their friends, and even adopting aspects of their personality. Sometimes I just tried faking it.

When I was 24, I began teaching English as a Foreign Language, and a month into my first contract in Japan, I was told my students found me difficult to talk to. I was upset because I thought I had made an effort to be friendly and I didn’t understand what else I could do. After crying all night because once again I wasn’t good enough, I went into work the next day determined to be really lively and talkative. Of course, it didn’t work because everyone could see I was being false. It seemed that I was doomed. I would never be accepted. Being a naturally loud person was the only way to be liked.

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Or maybe not.

Over the years, I’ve spoken to several talkative, extroverted people who’ve been told they’re too loud or that they talk too much. It seems whatever personality you’ve got you’re always going to be “too much” of something for someone.

What really matters is: do you think you need to change?

My shyness has made some areas of my life more difficult. It’s something I’ve been working on all my life and I always will be in order to do all the things I want to do. However, I’ve realized I’m always going to be an introvert, which is not the same thing. I enjoy going out and socializing, but I also enjoy being alone. At work I talk to people all day, every day. I like my job, but as an introvert, I get tired after all that interaction, so later I need some quiet time to “recharge my batteries.” I can overcome my shyness. I can’t overcome my introversion, but actually, I wouldn’t want to because I’m happy being this way.

Be kind to yourself if you decide to change.

While I’m still shy, I no longer worry about it.  When speaking to new people, if something comes out wrong or I get my words mixed up, I just laugh to myself about my nervousness rather telling myself how weird the other person must’ve thought I was.

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In the past I was terrified of any form of public speaking. Now my job is getting up in front of people and talking. After a rocky start in Japan, my students now see me as funny (sometimes!) and confident. So I think I’m doing alright. No, I don’t understand why I can’t just be like that with everyone, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m doing my best and that’s all I can do.

Don’t be afraid to lose false friends.

When you’re always being told you’re too much of this or not enough of that, it’s easy to start thinking you have to be grateful that anyone is willing to spend time with you. I used to put up with friends who treated me badly because I thought if I stood up for myself, I’d lose their friendship and I’d end up all alone.

Eventually, in my last year teaching abroad, I did stand up for myself and my worst fear came true. I was left completely friendless. And you know what? It was okay. The time alone taught me to enjoy my own company, and gave me the chance to learn more about myself. This has gradually led to me attracting more positive people into my life.

Could your supposed weakness actually be your strength?

I’m a good listener, so friends feel able to talk to me if they have a problem and they know I’m not going to tell anyone. I’m an efficient worker because I just get on with the job. I can empathize with shy students in my class. I don’t force them to speak but leave them alone, knowing that they’ll talk when they feel more comfortable.

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There’s a reason why you were made the way you are. If we were all supposed to be the same, we would be. I’ve stopped trying to make everyone like me and I’ve stopped trying to be something I’m not. As a result, any changes in my character happen naturally as my confidence continues to grow. The “quiet” comments are also now few and far between. When you learn to accept yourself, you’re likely to find that others will accept you too.

But if they don’t, it really doesn’t matter.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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